News that Sheikh Hameed al-Ahmar, one of Yemen’s most prominent businessmen, had been officially indicted by Dubai police surfaced on Sunday and sent shockwaves across Yemen.
Hameed al-Ahmar is no other than Sheikh Sadeeq al-Ahmar’s younger brother, the powerful tribal leader of the Hasheed confederation of tribes and one of the country’s most influential political figures as he is a leading figure of al-Islah party, Yemen’s Islamic political faction.
Although Hameed enjoyed for years a privileged position within President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s private circle, enabling him to build a fortune estimated to several billions of dollars, the Sheikh became very critical of the regime a few years back, accusing Saleh and his coterie of syphoning the country’s riches and abusing their position of power.
When Yemenis moved against the government on the wake of President Hosni Mubarak’s demise, Hameed was one the first influential figures to back up the uprising, calling for the fall of Saleh and the rise of his party, al-Islah. Soon enough his men literally invaded “Change Square”, the epicenter of the pro-democracy movement, determined to sway the odds in his favor and bank on Yemen’s revolution to assert his own rule over the people.
But if the Sheikh was quick to point the finger at Yemen’s ruling class, claiming that the entire state apparatus was corrupted and vile, he used his name and connections to pressure companies into partnering with him, receiving wads of cash for “protection” or prying government tenders from more qualified contenders only to not complete the work but get paid anyway since his name echoed fear.
One could spend an entire afternoon listening to peoples’ stories about Sheikh Hameed al-Ahmar, all involving mob-like behavior: intimidation, threats, abuse, kidnappings, theft, embezzlement and whatnot.
But if so far Hameed’s deeds went unpunished, it seems that fate is catching up with him, and interestingly enough justice is coming by way of the UAE.
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Dubai Police is accusing the Sheikh of using one of the Emirates’ financial institutions to laundry an estimated $4.2 billion.
Sources within the Yemeni embassy in the UAE and members of the police forces revealed that after a thorough investigation involving several individuals, including Sheikh Hameed al-Ahmar and Amr Ali Salem, an associate of al-Ahmar, it had become clear that the group was conducting reprehensive and criminal business activities.
Al-Ahmar was trying to “clean” billions of dollars through the Islamic Development Bank and a bank in Cyprus, clouding the sources of his vast fortune to ensure that no one would ever be able to prove it had been obtained illegally.
The Sheikh’s personal fortune stands according to the Financial Times at $84 billion.
Hameed was able to amass such a dizzying fortune through the influence of his late father, Sheikh Abdullah al-Ahmar who demanded that President Saleh granted his son a monopoly concession on the sale of government petroleum products.
For more than a decade al-Ahmar became the sole government broker. It is when President Saleh revoked his license that Hameed became one of his most virulent detractors, seeking to destroy the veteran politician.
Sheikh Hameed al-Ahmar has been asked by Dubai Police to make himself available for questioning.